Orvis Clearwater Fly Reel Review in 2024

In this orvis clearwater fly reel review, we'll be examining the Orvis Clearwater large arbor reel. does it live up to its reputation? How does this diecast reel compare to a machined reel? We’ll answer all your questions in our detailed Clearwater reel review!
Orvis Clearwater Review

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In this Orvis Clearwater reel review, we’ll be examining the Orvis Clearwater large arbor reel. does it live up to its reputation? How does this diecast reel compare to a machined reel? We’ll answer all your questions in our detailed Clearwater reel review!

If you’re on the lookout for an affordable reel that performs, then listen up! In this review, we’ll be examining the Orvis Clearwater large arbor reel – one of the best fly fishing reels (in the low-cost category) on the market right now!

Many anglers favor Clearwater due to its low price and (of course) that Orvis brand name. But does it live up to its reputation? How does this diecast reel compare to a machined reel? We’ll answer all your questions in our detailed Clearwater reel review!

Orvis Clearwater Reel Review

Orvis Clearwater Specs:

Available Size: 4, 7 Overall Weight: 5.5 – 6.3oz
Arbor Size: Standard Material: Aluminum
Spool Diameter: 3 3/8 – 3 7/8in Colors: Gray
Spool Capacity: 100 – 200yds Warranty: Orvis Lifetime Warranty
Drag Type: Stacked Disc Country of Manufacture: USA

Overall Score

Drag System Quality
Weight and Balance
Line Capacity
Ease of Maintenance
Aesthetic and Design
Price to Value Ratio
Brand Reputation & Customer Service

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The Clearwater large arbor reel is an entry-level reel with features that will surpass your expectations. Although it comes in at less than $100, it has a smooth, powerful disc drag system, excellent ergonomics, and a sturdy build.

This reel is available in two models, the Clearwater II for rod line weights of 4-6, and the Clearwater IV for 7 – 9 weights. It also comes with a reel spool to keep your fly reel safe when it’s not in use.

The Clearwater costs around $89, and you can buy a spare spool for just $49. That’s why this reel is so popular among fly fishing enthusiasts – especially if you don’t have a huge budget, but still want to get the most out of your fly fishing hobby!

orvis clearwater construction


The Clearwater is a diecast aluminum reel boasting a stainless steel stacked disc drag system. It feels strong and durable, thanks to the anti-corrosive elements. And in the latest edition, the frame is both more robust and lighter – a winning combination!

The Clearwater has a backing capacity of 100 yards, which should be enough for your needs. It’s unlikely you’ll be using this reel in saltwater for big fish, so you won’t need to worry about running out of line and backing.


The Clearwater comes in just one colorway, a powder-coated matte-grey. It has a neat finish, but it can’t quite compare with the premium machined reels on the market today.

This isn’t the most beautiful reel, and it’s unlike to turn heads and get appraising looks on the river. The Clearwater has more of a practical, pared-back feel to it, but it gets the job done – and that’s always the most important factor when you’re out on the water!

The Clearwater has clean lines and an airy feel, due to the generous porting (which also helps to reduce any unnecessary weight). While it might not be eye-catching, the simple design works well here. It still feels like a quality product -as you’d expect from a household name like Orvis!

orvis clearwater drag system

Drag System

Given the price, you might not have high hopes for the Clearwater’s drag system. But you’d be wrong if you wrote it off for that reason. I was surprised to find that the Clearwater has a smooth yet powerful drag system.

And even more critically, it’s very consistent, so it will protect your line and tippet and prevent you from losing fish. The startup inertia is practically inexistent – a welcome feature. There’s nothing more annoying than a sticky drag that makes you lose a whopper, just when you begin to reel it in!

The Clearwater is kitted out with a stainless steel/Rulon stacked disc drag system, which is both durable and effective. The max drag you’ll get is around 5 lbs with this reel, but that’s plenty for most freshwater fly scenarios. Compared to other reels in the same price range, the Clearwater beats them, hands down!


Despite being diecast, the Clearwater large arbor reel is lightweight and will balance our your fly rods like a dream. The latest design from the Orvis team has ensured it’s lighter than ever, as the reel stats show. The Clearwater II weighs just 5.5 oz, while the Clearwater IV comes in at 6.3 oz.

So as you can see, this reel won’t weigh you down on the water. For this price, this low weight is pretty impressive and will feel great out on the water. You’ll hardly notice the Clearwater is there until you need it – always a sign of an excellent fly reel!

orvis clearwater ergonomics


The Clearwater has some other great features, too, like the positive click drag knob which makes it easy to adjust the drag. The drag knob has a nice, textured shape so that you can get a firm grip. As you turn, you’ll hear the clicks so you can gauge how much further you need to go to get the perfect level of drag.

It’s also super quick and straightforward to switch from right-hand to left-hand operation on this reel. The easy-release spool is another welcome addition, and the drag handle also has an ergonomic, user-friendly design. It’s hard to fault the ergonomics on this reel!


The Clearwater is protected by the generous Orvis reel policy. The warranty covers your reel for 25 years – if your reel becomes damaged during this time, just send it in and the team will repair it for you. You’ll only need to cover the $30 processing fee.

It’s great to know that you have this policy to fall back on, even for such an affordable reel as the Clearwater. It could save you some money and ensures that your reel should last years, if not decades!

orvis clearwater pros cons

Pros & Cons:

If you don’t have time to read the full review of the Clearwater reels, not to worry. Here’s what you need to know about this reel in a nutshell, to help you make that quick decision!


  • Robust Rulon disc drag system
  • Very lightweight to balance out your fly rod
  • It’s covered by the generous 25-year Orvis fly reel warranty
  • Fast, smooth line pickup thanks to the large arbor
  • The drag is easily adjustable on the Clearwater


  • The texture isn’t the smoothest – the finish doesn’t compare to more premium fly reels
  • This diecast reel won’t be as durable as a fully machined reel
  • The Clearwater has very simple aesthetics – it’s not flashy
  • Not manufactured in the US


Are Orvis Clearwater rods any good?

Orvis Clearwater fly rods are great low-cost rods for anglers. They are versatile and robust, offering impressive performance and excellent value for money. Each model has a perfectly tailored action, making them consistent and effective in all situations!

Where are Orvis Clearwater rods made?

The Clearwater rods are designed in the US and manufactured abroad to the highest standards. The main reason for the manufacturing process taking place overseas is to keep the costs down for the consumer, without losing out on any quality. You can be assured that these rods receive close attention to detail at every stage in the process!

What is a cassette fly reel?

A cassette fly reel uses plastic cassettes instead of extra spools. As the cassettes are very lightweight and compact, this allows an angler to carry additional cassettes loaded with different fly lines. Then, swapping out fly lines is a speedy process that takes seconds.

They are also a fraction of the cost compared to buying an all-metal reel or even just an extra spool. Spare cassettes cost around $10, so the cassette fly reel is an affordable choice, too!

orvis clearwater wrap up

The Wrap Up

To sum up, the Orvis Clearwater is an impressive reel for fly fishing, especially if you’re on a budget. If you’re upgrading from an entry-level reel, you’ll appreciate the bombproof, easily adjustable drag system. It’s a robust reel that should last you for years, but it won’t break the bank.

All things considered, it’s an excellent buy! Whether you’re after a sturdy workhorse of a backup reel, it ticks all the right boxes! The designers at Orvis have truly outdone themselves by creating such an effective, low-cost reel with large arbor and fast line pickup. It makes fishing a joy for anyone from beginners to pros! So why not grab one of these affordable reels today, ready for your next fishing trip?

If you’ve got any questions about any Orvis fly rod or reels, I’d be happy to help – post them below! And if this fishing reel review has been helpful, we’d love for you to share it on social media!

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